Free Speech

Man Acquitted of Charges Over Cursing in Police Station

Cops thought saying "bullshit" was a high crime

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MASSILLON, Ohio – Yesterday, a Massillon Municipal Court judge acquitted Heath Devoll, a Brewster man who was charged with disorderly conduct after uttering the phrase, "This is bullshit," while leaving the Massillon Police Station on April 8.

"This was a cut and dried case of protected speech," said ACLU Staff Attorney Drew Dennis. "Mr. Devoll's statements were not threatening or antagonistic. On his way out the door, he exercised his First Amendment right to criticize the police department's handling of his case. For that he was detained and cited for disorderly conduct."

Devoll had been trying to file a police report after someone shot out the windshield of his vehicle. Frustrated by an officer who refused to take his complaint, he muttered the critical remarks as he left the station. He was taken back inside the station, detained, and cited "for cussing." Later he learned from the officer's supervisor that he would in fact be allowed to file a police report for the vandalism incident.